Fellows, a UK-based auction house, is hosting its Watch Sale on August 13, featuring some 400 lots. With that many timepieces up for sale, there’s a lot to sort through, so here are a few of the lots to pay attention to. There will be live and online bidding, if you’re not local to Birmingham, but looking to drop some pounds.
The lot with the highest estimate at Fellows is this Patek Phillipe Reference 1579, an 18k yellow gold chronograph from 1952. The Reference 1579 was made from 1943 to 1964, and is notable for its larger 36mm case size and unusually shaped “spider” lugs. While in production for approximately 21 years, only about 470 pieces were made; an estimated 250 of these were in the yellow gold we see here. As you might imagine, the platinum version is extremely rare and collectible, achieving hammer prices in the millions on the rare occasion they actually come up for auction. Meanwhile, well-maintained gold examples can achieve healthy six figure hammer prices. But, as is the case with vintage Patek, stainless steel is even rarer: there are only 7 known examples of the Ref. 1579 case in steel, though Patek uncovered some new old stock cases in the 2000s.
Inside the Ref. 1579 is the manual wind caliber 13'' 130, a modified valjoux 23 ebauche. Unfortunately, the movement of the example here will need a servicing, as the chronograph hands do not reset. However, the rest of the movement does function. Additionally, the lugs have lost some of their angular shape and the dial has some scratches and discoloration throughout.
All in all, it’s a 70-year-old watch with the scars to show it; it’s a bit of a project, but nothing a collector with a good watchmaker wouldn’t relish to take on.
Estimate: £55,000 to £75,000
Next up is a Heuer Skipper Reference 15640. This is an example of the first execution of the Skipper in an Autavia case, first appearing in Heuer’s catalogs in 1972. It’s got a deep blue dial and blue bezel, with an unusually placed seconds hand at 10 o’clock and a tri-color yachting indication at 3 o’clock with a chronograph function that makes the Skipper instantly recognizable. Because of the niche audience, these things weren’t made in large quantities, making them even more sought after by collectors today.
Inside is a a modified automatic Buren 15 movement, a joint development of Hamilton-Buren, Breitling, and Heuer, first released in 1969.
Lot 97 estimate: £3,000 to £4,000
In 1971, Tudor introduced its second series of chronographs, conveniently known as the 7100 series. These chronographs were some of the first to embrace the big, bold design choices that came to define the 1970s. Most noticeable is the watch’s loud color choices, giving the models the “Monte Carlo” nickname because of their resemblance to the casino tables in the city of the same name. Further, the Monte Carlo features a 40mm case, large compared to the Daytonas and Carreras that had defined the chronograph look in the 1960s.
Additionally, Tudor threw on a 12-hour bi-directional rotating bezel that it hadn’t used in full production before.
This example is a Reference 7169/0, powered by a manual wind Valjoux 234 is a higher-beat replace of the Valjoux 23, operating at 21,600 A/h.
The Valjoux 234 is a celebrated hand-winding column wheel chronograph movement produced beginning in the 1970s. A higher-beat replacement for the venerable Valjoux 23, it operates at 21,600 A/h rather than 18,000 A/h and adds a date function. The Valjoux 234 was introduced in 1974.
Lot 323 estimate: £8,000 to £12,000
One to Avoid
Listen, sometimes these auction houses have trouble filling up a catalog. And when a Rolex with a sexy reference number comes in, it’s hard to pass it up.
Unfortunately, with popular models like a Rolex Explorer Reference 1016, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And while this one has a low estimate, I’m not sure I’d spend more than my lunch money on it.
First, the serial number places this watch’s birthdate in 1962; however, this watch has a caliber 1570 movement in it. Unfortunately, Rolex didn’t starting making Explorers with a the 1570 movement until the late 1960s. The correct movement for this watch would be the caliber 1560.
Next, the dial has been badly repainted. Honestly, it’s hard to tell exactly what happened without better photos, but it’s clearly not good. The crystal is noticeably beat up, though that’s the least of my worries with this watch.
To be clear, Fellows makes all of this very clear in their description. And I don’t totally begrudge them for putting it up for auction either; rather make a few bucks than throw it in the trash and tell some consignor their watch wasn’t worth anything.
But, it’s unfortunate that someone might drop £7,500 for this Explorer just because it’s a splashy and desirable reference number. If there’s something about this watch that draws you to it on a personal level, that’s fine. But don’t buy this (or any other mediocre Reference 1016) just because it’s a hot vintage Rolex reference and you can’t afford the going rate for a minty example. It’s fine if you can’t afford a perfect, honest Reference 1016 (I can’t either); but don’t buy the bargain version. Look at something like a “neo-vintage” Reference 14270 instead.
Lot 266 estimate: £5,500 to £7,500